The "city upon a hill" reference from today's verse has been cited by John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Ted Cruz to allude to our nation's founding and the Christian motivations for the American experiment. The phrase has a very interesting backstory. The quote comes from a lecture delivered by Puritan John Winthrop on March 21, 1630, but it wasn't popularized in US politics until the Cold War era, when Christianity was stressed as a defining characteristic of Americanness, in opposition to the "godless" Soviet Union. Jesus' beautiful imagery in the Sermon on the Mount became a tool in civilizational warfare.
In this post-Cold War era, Christian Nationalism remains a real threat. I'm glad to know that many Americans recognize that: "20% of registered voters said the religiously based nationalism was a 'critical threat' and 27% said it was an 'important but not critical threat.'" The idea of the US as a Christian nation would offend the architects of the US Constitution as well, since they created a strong separation of church and state for the growing and religiously diverse country.
Today's news about the Trump administration attacking Puerto Rico and not recognizing that Puerto Ricans are American citizens is another reminder that we shouldn't be talking about "Christian Nationalism" so much as "White Christian Nationalism." You don't see Christians of color in the United States advancing Christian nationalism. It's a tool of white supremacy, just like appeals to Christianity were a tool of the Cold War.
As Christians, we are called to link arms and stand firm against White Christian Nationalism. We need to educate the half of our nation that doesn't recognize the problem and show people why using Christianity in this way is offensive to Jesus' life and teaching that we read about in the Gospels.
Yes, during the Cold War, politicians and the Christian right abused scripture to fight the USSR. But at the same time, many progressive Christians followed Jesus by working in the nuclear disarmament movement. Christian history is full of the tug-of-war between people following Jesus and people abusing his message to serve their own interests. When the historians look back on the era of Trump, I pray that we are counted among the Resistance!